Based on Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 Oscar nominated Warner Bros. movie starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, The Bodyguard, directed by Thea Sharrock with book by Oscar winning (Birdman) Alex Dinelaris, had its world premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End in 2012 and was nominated for four Olivier Awards.

A sell out 18 month UK and Ireland tour followed, which played at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in 2015 before the show returned to the West End at the Dominion Theatre. The Bodyguard has also played in the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, Canada, Italy, Australia and China and can currently be seen in Stuttgart, Madrid and on tour throughout France and the United States.

Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don’t expect is to fall in love.

A romantic thriller, The Bodyguard features a host of irresistible classics including Queen of the Night, So Emotional, One Moment in Time, Saving All My Love, I’m Your Baby Tonight, Run to You, I Have Nothing, I Wanna Dance with Somebody and one of the biggest hit songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.

The musical production of The Bodyguard received critical acclaim when it originally opened in the West End back in 2012. Since then it has had a London revival and productions have opened all over the world. I had the pleasure of seeing the first UK tour in 2015 and revisited the production last night at the Wolverhampton Grand during its current UK tour.

Whitney Houston’s music is, and will always be, iconic. The songs have received fresh orchestrations and have been cleverly weaved into the book, written by Alexander Dinelaris. The show is, of course, based on the 1992 film, which starred Houston alongside Kevin Costner, but is also a respectful tribute to one of the greatest female artists of all time.

Thea Sharrock’s direction moves along at pace and Karen Bruce’s choreography puts the ensemble through their paces during the upbeat numbers. Sharrock utilises Tim Hatley’s ingenious set design to create a multitude of locations. Using vertical and horizontal screens to box off the stage in particular ways is almost cinematic in its approach. The music and scene changes also work in harmony throughout, with peaks or accents in the orchestrations used as a cue to change the setting or open the stage up.

The lighting by Mark Henderson is award-worthy. He strikes the perfect balance between elaborate gig lighting and subtle, visual moments. The inclusion of video from Duncan McLean anchors the stage action, as well as being a worthwhile filler during bigger scene transitions.

The entire production felt like an epic concert and much of this needs to be credited to Sound Designer, Richard Brooker, the touring sound crew who replicate the design in each venue and the musicians in the pit, led by Michael Riley.

This week in Wolverhampton, Jennlee Shallow – who is usually the alternate Rachel Marron – is performing in all shows, prior to Alexandra Burke returning to the role next week, as per their normal schedule. Burke is no stranger to this role, having performed it in London and on the last UK tour. I remember thinking back in 2015 that the character was made for her and she ticked every box. However, it is always great to see other performers’ interpretations so I was excited to see Shallow as Rachel Marron.

There is no doubt that Shallow can sing and delivering a Whitney number well is incredibly difficult. However, on occasion, it felt there was more focus on growls and riffs than general technique. She often cut her phrasing short and lyrics became lost. Shallow seemed comfortable physically with the concert-style numbers but appeared lost at times from an acting perspective. Her performance just lacked a little star quality for me.

Benoit Marechal is a very dashing Frank Farmer, aka the bodyguard. He maintains the seriousness of his position flawlessly and you can clearly see him mellowing when he realises he has feelings for Rachel. If I had to make a minor criticism, it would be that his native French accent comes through a considerable amount. Not a big issue in the large scheme of things but if the character is meant to be American, the dialect needs tightening up.

Micha Richardson, playing Nicki Marron, was the highlight of the show in my eyes. You could feel her heartbreak at learning her sister, Rachel, was sleeping with Frank and vocally, she has a stunning tone. ‘All At Once’ is enchanting and her duet with Shallow during ‘Run To You’ is a particular highlight.

An incredibly, powerful show with music that will have you up on your feet with joy.

**** Four stars

Jenny Ell

4 Stars on Wed, 26 Jun 2019

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